Thu, May 18, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Moon raises ‘high possibility’ of conflict with N Korea

Reuters, SEOUL

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, center, speaks to military commanders at the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul yesterday, in his first visit to the ministry since his inauguration.

Photo: EPA

South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday said there was a “high possibility” of conflict with North Korea, which is pressing ahead with nuclear and missile programs it says it needs to counter US aggression.

The comments came hours after the South, which hosts 28,500 US troops, said it wanted to reopen a channel of dialogue with North Korea as Moon seeks a two-track policy, involving sanctions and dialogue, to try to rein in its neighbor.

Pyongyang has made no secret of the fact that it is working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the US mainland and has ignored calls to halt its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally.

It conducted its latest ballistic missile launch, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, on Sunday, which it said was a test of its capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead,” drawing condemnation from the council.

“The reality is that there is a high possibility of a military conflict at the NLL [Northern Limit Line] and military demarcation line,” Moon was quoted as saying by the presidential Blue House.

He also said the North’s nuclear and missile capabilities seem to have advanced rapidly recently, but that the South was ready and capable of striking back should the North attack.

Moon’s envoy to the US, South Korean media mogul Hong Seok-hyun, yesterday left for Washington.

Hong said South Korea had not yet received official word from the US on whether Seoul should pay for an anti-missile US radar system that has been deployed outside Seoul.

US President Donald Trump has said he wants Seoul to pay for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system.

China has strongly opposed THAAD, saying it can spy into its territory, and South Korean companies have been hit in China by a nationalist backlash over the deployment.

The US said it believed it could persuade China to impose new UN sanctions on North Korea and warned that Washington would also target and “call out” countries supporting Pyongyang.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a UN Security Council meeting, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also made clear that Washington would only talk to North Korea once it halted its nuclear program.

Asked about Haley’s comments, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said Beijing would work hard at reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and finding a peaceful resolution.

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